Replacing iOS Photo Backup with Google Photos

Ever since the introduction of iOS Photo Library backup (since iOS 8.1, I believe), I’ve been trying to use it with mixed results.

My biggest gripes about iOS Photo Library backup were:

  • Very unintuitive UI/UX, specially for Apple standards. There’s no proper way to see progress, to pause the progress temporarily, or to do manual backups. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
  • It’s too aggressive on the network and more than once it brought both of my routers to their knees, wreaking havoc with the rest of my home network.
  • The iCloud Photos web app was rather featureless w/o a good way to create new albums, share certain pictures (at least it wasn’t clear enough how to do so).

A few days ago, during Google I/O 2015, Google introduced Google Photos. Google photos is, in essence, an excellent feature that was being sunk/dragged down by Google+ failboat and was yanked out into its own app.

As soon as the app released for iOS in the App Store, I downloaded it and begun to use it. After a few days of use and backing up all my iOS photos and videos, I was sold. This app is what I’ve been looking for, in terms of photo library backups. Very simple to use, clear, uncluttered UI, does exactly what I want, and the storage upgrade price is ridiculously affordable ($1.99/month for 100Gb).

A fellow photography enthusiast in Twitter (@cdpinker) mentioned that doing so I would lose the ability to local backups. Although not all that important to me, I can completely see how this could affect someone’s workflow and local back up process. Luckily, there is a work-around.

  1. Log into Google Drive with the account you used to begin using Google Photos. Upon log on, Drive will prompt if you want to add Google Photos folder, accept.

  2. That action will create a folder link at the ‘root’ level as well as folder nested under ‘My Drive’

  3. To download your all your backups, up to that moment, expand ‘My Drive’
  4. Right-click on top of the ‘Google Photos’ folder, click on ‘Download’

    (It’ll probably take a few minutes while Drive marshals and zip-balls all the pictures inside that folder.)

  5. Wait for Google Drive to send you a link to the download file, which you can then store locally.